I wrote my last post about a year ago. I mentioned that I loved the work I was doing but I did not love being in the workplace. It was getting harder and harder for me to show up because of all the location-specific stresses and sensory assaults.
I had asked my manager if I could work from home, and at the time of my writing she was delaying giving me an answer. Well, here’s an update: She eventually did give me an answer, and that answer was no. She said the board wouldn’t allow it.
About two months after that, she quit, and a new manager was hired. Once the new manager had had a chance to settle in, I broached the subject with her. She approved of the idea, took it to the board, and my request was granted. That was the first the board had heard of it.
So, for many months now, I have been doing most of my work from home. I still go in about once a week to catch up on certain things that can only be done in person, but I can arrive and leave when I want to and that helps a lot. This arrangement is working very well for me. I am extremely grateful that things finally fell into place to allow me to do this.
I have now been working for this organization for one year and four months. This is the longest I have held any job, ever! This is a big deal for me.
The downside is that the job is still only twelve hours a week and is still only paying minimum wage. And almost as soon as I got this job, my husband started working fewer hours (not by choice). So even though I’m finally maintaining a job, we’re actually poorer than we were before. Somehow we just can’t get ahead. I’ve probably said this before, but I’d almost think we’re cursed, if I believed in such things, which I don’t.
But at least now I’m not living under the weight of other people’s disapproval like I was before. At least not in this category of adulting. I have something legit to tell people when they ask, “What do you do?” That is more important to me than money.
There’s been a big change in my life since I last updated my blog. I now have a job.
I created and am now managing a website for a local nonprofit, as well as handling all their social media and creating brochures and posters and forms for them. The tasks are all things I am comfortable with and come very naturally to me. This is the first time I’ve had a job that is a near-perfect match to my actual skills and aptitudes. I’ve turned out to be good at this job. I am getting a lot of positive feedback on my work from my boss and the public.
The job basically fell into my lap. My husband was already working part time for this organization, and the boss was saying to him that they really needed to hire someone who can do this kind of thing, and he said his wife can. He only said that because he thought that a work-from-home situation could probably be arranged, and when the boss asked to meet me that’s what I thought it was going to be. But that’s not what was offered, and I was so overwhelmed when talking to her that I agreed to everything she wanted. I left there with my head spinning, almost not even sure what had just happened.
It’s only part-time, three afternoons a week. I thought that would be manageable. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder for me to be there.
The environment is loud, noisy, smelly and generally chaotic. I get a headache or nausea almost every time I’m there. I gagged at work twice yesterday. Meanwhile, most of my coworkers are deeply unhappy because our boss treats them badly, and of course I pick up on that. The atmosphere is tense.
Strangely enough, my boss seems to treat me better than she treats many of my coworkers, which greatly surprises me! (I suspect it’s because she’s the one who hired me, whereas most of them were hired by the previous manager and are more set in their ways, which are the old manager’s ways.) But even so, I don’t like her. She’s not a nice person. It doesn’t matter if it’s me getting treated badly or other people; it affects me either way. I like and respect a lot of my coworkers and feel they deserve to be treated better.
I don’t want to be there. My whole body feels consumed by dread when I have to go there. I like the work itself, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep going there to that place.
The vast majority of what I do can easily be done from home, and I wrote my boss an email before Christmas saying that I want to work from home most of the time and explaining why that would be a good thing for all concerned. No, I didn’t mention that I don’t like her or that I think she treats people badly! I just explained that I have health issues that cause fatigue and I also have sensory processing disorder which causes me to have trouble concentrating at work due to the all the sensory stresses in the workplace environment. I didn’t mention autism, because I still have never sought a diagnosis and I think that’s a pretty big claim to make to your boss when you have nothing to back it up. So I put the focus on my sensory issues and told her that I believe I would be far more happy, healthy and productive working from home.
My boss told me that we could have a meeting to discuss what I’d written in my email, but one thing after another has come up to prevent that meeting from happening.
I had originally taken this job on a three-month trial basis but as of tomorrow I will have been working there for four months. I keep showing up, but I am getting more and more miserable every day. I had some time off over Christmas and New Years and it reminded me how much happier and at peace I am when I get to stay home.
I don’t love living in my parents’ basement. It’s humiliating, for one thing. And it’s stressful, because my mom and I are on such different wavelengths that it’s hard to get along with her. It would be easier if I could stay downstairs more, but I still have to use my parents’ kitchen upstairs, and since I try to have dinner ready shortly after my husband gets home from work, I have to be up there right when they have the TV news on.
I don’t want this blog to be about politics, but let’s just say that my political views are very left, and my mom’s are very right. Meanwhile, my dad is economically left but socially right. And there’s been a lot in the news lately to divide the left and the right. And when the news is on, and we’re all together, it gets very stressful. This is not a peaceful place to live.
But while I’m not particularly happy in my current circumstances, most of the time I am resigned to them.
I’ve blogged about this before, but just to reiterate: I get that it takes hard work to create a peaceful, comfortable, prosperous life for yourself, and that with my health, social and sensory issues having made it impossible thus far to maintain long-term employment, I haven’t earned that. It makes sense that someone like me is in this situation. I do not have any sense of entitlement. I am realistic about what I am, and what that means.
But over a decade ago when I married a man with a PhD in physics and big career ambitions, I allowed myself to dream. I thought maybe I could have a comfortable life after all. I was completely delusional about what having a PhD meant, and assumed he would have the world on a string and could do anything he wanted and have any job he wanted. I now know that’s not the case, and again, for the most part, I have become resigned to it.
But then last weekend my husband met a guy through a recreational sports team he’s been playing on. They started talking about career issues, and when this guy found out my husband’s qualifications he started telling him about all the connections he has in this town in the tech industry and saying he was sure they’d love to meet him and he should have no problem landing a decent job. He said there was a tech industry event (a career fair of sorts) that coming Tuesday that my husband should attend, and he would introduce him around to all of these contacts.
When my husband came home and told me all this, I couldn’t help thinking that it all seemed so serendipitous. This event just happened to be on Tuesday, my husband’s day off (from his menial, very low-paid job). And he just happened to talk to this particular guy on the Saturday before this tech event. And the conversation just happened to turn to my husband’s educational and work background. As if it were all meant to be. As if, in response to my prayers, God were orchestrating something. (I get that not everyone shares my faith — no need to tell me how silly I was being!) As they say, there’s no such thing as coincidence, right? So I started to allow myself to hope. And it felt good to hope. I felt happy for a few days. I thought, okay, I still hate this town, but maybe if my husband can get a decent-paying job we can at least get our own place here and have some independence and a peaceful home and life. I started to really picture it, and it was beautiful.
My husband got up early Tuesday morning and got himself ready in his professional attire. He looked damn good. I had spent all day Monday updating and revising his resume (my own training and work experience is in office admin so preparing professional-looking documents is kind of my thing — not that I enjoy it, but it is something I can do well) and I provided him with several printed copies and a digital copy he could keep on his phone if anyone asked for it by e-mail. He had researched some of the companies online in the meantime and was fully prepared. I was proud of him and really thought something was going to come of it.
It was a complete bust. Everyone was nice to him, but made it clear that they have nothing for him. These companies are only looking for engineers. He has good skills that could in theory have applications in tech R&D, but they’re not interested. Only one of them was even willing to take his resume, and said they didn’t have anything for his skills at the moment, but maybe they would in the future. My husband has heard that line so many times only to never hear back and be given the cold shoulder when he follows up, so I’m well aware that there’s no point basing any hope in that.
My dashed hopes have me reeling in pain and disappointment. I feel like a fool and like I hate my life more than words can express, in comparison to the life I was picturing. I wish none of it had happened. I wish there hadn’t been a reason to hope. It felt good for a few days, but having a few good days was not worth how I feel now. I need to accept my fate, once and for all, and somehow make the best of it, or I will make myself insane.
I also feel so bad for my husband. He has worked so hard to get good qualifications and it’s not like he’s ever failed professionally. He’s had nothing but good performance reviews from his past employers and he even won a prestigious award for his research a few years ago. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do but it’s gotten him nowhere as far as actual long-term paid employment goes. Landing permanent, full time employment in his field or any field that would allow us a decent quality of life has remained a pipe dream. It’s hurting him more than it’s hurting me of course, because for him it’s not just about independence and quality of life, it’s about his professional dreams being dashed and feeling like all his hard work has been for nothing. He talks about how when he was in school, other kids would be going out partying and he would turn down their invitations so he could study, believing that if he studied hard and did well he could get a good job and have a good life one day, and my heart breaks for him that that has not turned out to be the case.
I admire him so much for being willing to do what he has to do to get by now, even though it’s not what he wanted, and I admire him for still being willing to put himself out there like he did on Tuesday, even though his hopes get dashed again and again. I want to see him succeed, not just for me, but because while I may not deserve much in life, he absolutely does.
My husband’s boss has agreed to renew his contract for another month, so crisis averted for the time being. The boss says he will try to renew it one month at a time as long as possible, but due to funding issues he strongly suggests my husband look for other jobs (which he’s already doing anyway) and take the first thing that comes along. If only something else would come along.
Meanwhile, in his spare time, my husband is researching another possible career direction that would allow him to be self-employed and not have to rely on external funding. I will write more on it if it comes to fruition. I’m just relieved that he has a feasible idea, as we’ve been out of ideas for a while now. I’ve always said to him, “We’re both intelligent people, why can’t we figure out how to make some money and provide a decent life for ourselves?” Well, I guess I know why I can’t, but it baffles me that he can’t seem to either.
You want a Lamborghini? Sip martinis? Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion? Party in France? You better work bitch
I have to laugh at those lyrics. Lamborghini, mansion, and party in France? I just want to keep a roof over our heads, and even that is hard enough!
With my husband about to be out of a job at the end of April and with no glimmer of hope for anything else on the horizon for him, I am starting to panic. I am going to have to start looking for work again.
At age 42, I have shamefully still not found my place in the workforce. My training is in office admin, yet office admin jobs have proven to be too stressful for me. Still, that’s the kind of job I have the best chance of getting because it’s what I’m qualified to do, even though I know I can’t handle it long-term. At least, I never have been able to before.
I am willing to do some retraining in another field if I can secure some funding for it, but of course that wouldn’t solve the immediate problem, and I wouldn’t even know what to pick anyway. My sensory issues preclude me from doing the things I would otherwise be good at, like working with animals. Some people have told me I would make a good counselor, but I’m certain that my social issues would cause me to fuck that up somehow. Not to mention the stress and overload of feeling other people’s pain every day.
Whenever I do aptitude tests, I get the most impractical results like philosopher, religious clergy, and writer. The last one seems somewhat feasible on the surface, and I do enjoy writing, but the market is saturated with writers and you can’t make any money (certainly not enough to live on) unless you’re exceptionally good at it. Plus, from some online courses I’ve taken, I know that a big part of being a writer is promoting yourself, which is not something I can do. And then there are the inevitable critical reviews, which would probably cripple my ability to write at all. That’s what I’m like, sadly.
Still, there must be something I can do that I would be good at and that wouldn’t destroy me.
Another obstacle is that in order to do retraining, I’d need to know I can stay in one place until the program is finished. Since I got married, I have never had that security. My husband is an academic who works on short-term contracts and that means moving from place to place. Sometimes he finds himself unemployed (which is what I’m afraid is about to happen at the end of April), and when that happens he busts his butt trying to find work and we have to be ready to move to wherever he does. Right now there is a two-year program I’d be interested in at the community college that starts in September. But I don’t even know if we’ll be here in September, let alone when the program finishes two years later.
My husband has been trying all along to land something more permanent, but has been unsuccessful. He has even been willing to get out of academia entirely in order to have more secure employment, and has applied for many, many things, highlighting his many transferable skills, but so far no one has been willing to give him a chance because they see him as “too academic.” He is willing to do almost anything (legal and ethical, of course) to give us a better, more settled, less stressful life, but despite his efforts all other doors have remained closed to him.
Normally my lack of a career or even a job doesn’t bother me. I am very content being a stay-at-home wife. I don’t get bored or lonely during the day; I love having peaceful alone time and the ability to control my sensory environment. When I did work, I just wished I were at home all day. I desperately yearned for it, in fact. Home is where I truly want to be. And unlike most people, I don’t feel like I have to have some grand purpose in life. Just getting through each day without cracking up feels like work to me. But one of us needs to be making money, and if it’s not my husband, it has to be me. So I have to figure something out. Hopefully by the end of the month.